Before the start of the Gold Rush Era (1848 to 1855), there were just a few dozen Black people in California. After gold was discovered on January 24, 1848 by James Wilson Marshall in Coloma on the American River in California, about four thousand Black people migrated to California. Many of the first waves during the Gold Rush Era were enslaved, but they were soon joined by free Black people, particularly miners seeking riches.
One of the mining areas that attracted many African Americans was Negro Hill, now a California Historical Landmark. First mined by Mormons in 1848, the Black miners set up Little Negro Hill and Big Negro Hill, reaching a population of 1,200 by 1853. It should be noted that Mexican Governor Micheltorena initially granted the land in 1844 to Alexander Leidesdorff, an Afro-Caribbean businessman who intended to operate a cattle enterprise. As Leidesdorff died in 1848, that dream was never realized.
- Lapp, Rudolph M. Blacks in Gold Rush California. Vol. 29. Yale University Press, 1977.
- University California. 2005. “African Americans: Gold Rush Era to 1900.” Calisphere University of California.
- Caesar, Clarence. 2019. “Key Points in Black History and the Gold Rush.” California Department of Education.